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Bally’s Chicago bucks trend with casino revenue gains in January, while new hotel plan remains under review

The new year is off to a promising start for Bally’s Chicago, which saw gambling revenue hit a new monthly high in January, bucking a broader post-holiday downturn for Illinois casinos.

In January, revenue at the temporary Medinah Temple casino grew 9.1% to $9.3 million in adjusted gross receipts, according to monthly data released Wednesday by the Illinois Gaming Board. Bally’s Chicago passed Harrah’s Joliet to rank third in revenue among the state’s 15 casinos.

Admissions at Bally’s Chicago declined 11.5% to 88,313 in January, but the casino nonetheless held its ranking as the second busiest in the state.

Statewide casino revenue was down 16% for the month, falling to $118.6 million. Admissions fell by nearly 20% to about 875,000 casino visitors across the state.

Rivers Casino Des Plaines remained the top casino for revenue and admissions, but its numbers were down sharply for January. The casino generated $38.9 million in adjusted gross receipts, a 14.4% decline from December, while admissions fell 18.5% to 227,361 visitors in January.

Bally’s Chicago, which opened its temporary River North facility in September, was the only casino in Illinois to show month-over-month revenue growth in January.

“January was our highest gaming revenue month to date, and we continue to see strong visitor counts,” Mark Wong, vice president and general manager of Bally’s Chicago, said in a news release. “More customers are taking advantage of our free parking and free shuttle service, which continues to grow in popularity.”

While Bally’s showed increasing revenue in January, it will have to pick up the pace to meet the city’s budget goals for 2024.

The city projected Bally’s would generate nearly $243 million in adjusted gross receipts this year, yielding about $35 million in local gaming taxes — the amount of casino revenue included in Chicago’s 2024 budget. At $9.3 million in adjusted gross receipts for January, the city’s share of Bally’s wagering tax is about $912,000, according to Gaming Board data.

Bally's Chicago Casino held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 3, 2023. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)
Bally’s Chicago Casino held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 3, 2023. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

Last month, Bally’s revealed that it would have to relocate the 500-room hotel tower planned for its proposed $1.74 billion permanent casino at the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center site to avoid damaging city water pipes near the Chicago River.

The initial two-phase plan called for a 100-room hotel base north of the casino building, with a 400-room tower built on top of it within five years of opening the permanent casino.

On Jan. 25, Bally’s presented preliminary renderings of a new hotel design at a meeting with the Casino Community Advisory Council, a group representing community stakeholders appointed in 2022 by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The renderings show the proposed 100-room hotel atop the casino building itself. The presentation also included three locations being studied for the second-phase 400-room hotel, which would be west of the casino building or closer to the northwest corner of the site, near the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

Bally’s submitted the revised site plan to the city in December. Such changes are allowed under the approved planned development and can be handled administratively by the city — without going back through the full planning and zoning process.

“We’re still in a holding pattern,” a Bally’s Chicago spokesperson said Wednesday. “We’re still awaiting the city’s review.”

Rhode Island-based Bally’s won a heated competition to build the Chicago casino at the 30-acre River West site, which houses the Tribune printing plant. It received final planning and zoning approval from the city in December 2022 for an entertainment complex that included an exhibition hall, 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, 10 restaurants and 4,000 gaming positions.

Last year, Bally’s agreed to pay Tribune Publishing, owners of the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, $150 million to vacate the Freedom Center by July. Tribune Publishing plans to relocate printing operations to the Daily Herald plant in Schaumburg, which it purchased for an undisclosed price.

Bally’s is expected to break ground this year, with plans to open the permanent casino complex in 2026.

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Robert Channick , 2024-02-07 22:54:04

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